Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Greetings, race fans. This past weekend brought two fairly interesting races at the Milwaukee Mile, and one very racy 350 kilometer event at Infineon Raceway. I, for one, thought that the double-file restarts were going to create chaos on Sunday since this was completely uncharted territory for restarts on road courses. However, this actually was somewhat sane. There were no pile ups at the uphill Turn 2 like everyone predicted that there would be.
Now, obviously, you’re not necessarily reading this to get my views on the races. You’re reading this because you watched the races and want to know my thoughts on the broadcasts. Well, that’s what I’m going to do. Sticking with the normal routine, I’ll go in chronological order and start with the Truck Series’ race, the Copart 200 at the Milwaukee Mile.
The Copart 200 was originally scheduled to go off around 9:10 p.m. on Friday night. However, weather intervened. First, an absolute deluge descended onto the Milwaukee metro area Thursday night, which flooded parts of the infield, and the tunnel used to get into the infield. A couple of hours of pumping later, the tunnels were again accessible. Practice went on basically as scheduled, but qualifying was washed out (again). Then, 25 minutes before the pre-race show was scheduled to start, the rains came with authority. By the time NCWTS Setup began, it was absolutely pouring, with high winds to boot. Luckily, NASCAR called the race fairly quick. For those of you noting that the track had lights (temporary, of course) therefore NASCAR should have waited longer, that is true, but it rained for quite a while Friday night (until something like 11 p.m. CDT, I think). Milwaukee takes a long time to dry because it’s so flat. Apparently, three and a half inches fell at the track. Absolutely brutal. In the roughly one half hour that SPEED was on the air Friday night, they reviewed the Michigan 200 and interviewed six drivers. It took a couple of tries to interview Matt Crafton in the media center due to technical issues, though. You could see Adam Alexander talking to Crafton, without sound, and then you basically see Alexander say something along the lines of “What the Deuce? Where’s the sound?” It looked a little funny, but you could sense the frustration there. In fact, technical issues were common at the Milwaukee Mile this past weekend on both SPEED and ESPN2. I’m unclear as to why this was the case, but it simply was.
On Saturday, the race went off as scheduled. However, the issues continued. For one, SPEED outright missed a spinout by Chad McCumbee, which cost him two laps. No replays, no nothing. Waltrip mentioned the spinout, but I never saw it. The only example that came to mind here was a spinout by Dave Marcis in the 1991 Daytona 500 on an early restart. The only mention of that harmless spin was a quick “by the way” reference to the spin by Ken Squier. Here, that spin cost a driver just outside of the top 10 in points a couple laps, regardless of the fact that it didn’t hurt his truck. This spin wasn’t even shown in the race recap highlight packages later on. I guess SPEED outright missed it. That is really surprising, to be honest.
There were a couple of other things that I didn’t like in the broadcast. One of those was that SPEED missed the restart after the first caution of the day. Not a fan of that. There were also a couple more technical glitches (Ex: Two replays on top of each other).
The post-race coverage was also deficient. SPEED interviewed winner Ron Hornaday and his crew chief Rick Ren, along with second place finisher Dennis Setzer. That’s it. Besides those three interviews, SPEED’s post-race coverage only consisted of a check of the unofficial results and the point standings. I’m guessing that SPEED gave this race a fluid time slot, because they did not give an official start time for tape delayed coverage of Happy Hour from Sonoma. They just said that it would start around 4 p.m. EDT. As a result of the ultra-short post race, the final practice session from Infineon started about 10 minutes before that. I would have liked more post race coverage.
If I were to give a grade for this race coverage, I think I was give it a C. There was quite a bit of coverage of side-by-side racing, but the aforementioned issues dragged down the overall grade significantly.
Later on Saturday night, ESPN2 provided live coverage of the Nationwide Series’ NorthernTool.com 250. However, the technical issues that plagued SPEED’s coverage continued on ESPN2. Makes me think that something is up with some of the infrastructure at the Milwaukee Mile. Here, the PA system malfunctioned during the Command to start engines, creating confusion all around. In addition, the commentators were unable to talk to their “In-Race Reporter” (Scott Wimmer) during the pace laps because they could not establish a connection. To his credit, Dr. Punch apologized for these issues. Towards the end of the race, the picture started “jerking around” for some reason. No clue as to why this happened, or if it was something that everyone watching the race experienced.
Due to the fact that the race ran really quick (for a Milwaukee event), the race ended with approximately 45 minutes left in their timeslot, a near unheard of circumstance (According to my on-screen guide, the race had a timeslot on ESPN2 until Midnight). In that time, ESPN provided interviews with race winner Carl Edwards and his crew chief Dan Skillman, Steve Wallace, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. As for Busch’s interview, required since he finished second, it was very evident that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Shannon Spake asked Kyle the usual questions that a reporter would ask a second place finisher. Based on what he said, it could be assumed that he completed ignored everything Shannon asked him, and simply responded with short responses. I wish Shannon would have tried to get more of a response out of Kyle, but apparently, that just wasn’t in the cards. He just wasn’t having it. The infamous petulance reared its ugly head again. I wonder what his fellow drivers think of that behavior.
After the typical interviews that mark a typical ESPN post-race show, ESPN started using material that would normally appear in pre-race shows in order to fill time. Definitely a sign that they didn’t expect that the race would end by 11:15 p.m. EDT. A big-time lack of confidence on ESPN’s part in the abilities of the Nationwide Series drivers right there.
For this race, Ray Evernham joined Dr. Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace in the booth, replacing the vacationing Andy Petree (this was not really mentioned on air, but it is well known that ESPN gives their booth commentators a couple of weekends off during the Nationwide-only portion of the NASCAR on ESPN schedule). Evernham was fairly solid in the booth, despite an overall limited amount of commentating experience. The earliest booth experience for Evernham that I can remember was when he was included in the booth for ABC’s four Cup races in 2000 in place of Ned Jarrett. My best guess as to why he was there was that Ned wanted to retire from the booth after 1999 (ESPN talked him into staying through 2000), and ABC let him leave so that they could attract a younger audience to their broadcasts. I thought his booth performance back then was not the best.
For Saturday night’s coverage, I think that I would give ESPN’s coverage a B- or C+. They were fairly good with showing the appropriate action out on the track, but the technical issues (some of which were completely out of their control) did hurt things. The “Up to Speed” bits done during the race could use some improvement, though. ESPN never covers all that many teams with the Up to Speed feature and Saturday night was no different. No one further back than 10th was profiled at all, and the second one was cut off after Jason Leffler had contact with the No. 70 of Shelby Howard. This contact peeled back some of the right rear fender on Leffler’s car. The replay was well-placed there. However, ESPN should have continued the Up to Speed after showing that replay.
Sunday brought TNT’s coverage of the Toyota Save Mart 350k. Most of the posters on our Live Blog on Sunday were generally satisfied with the race, giving it an A, A-, or B+ for an overall score. But, does the telecast live up to that grade?
Looking at the broadcast on Sunday, I saw a lot of the same things that hurt TNT’s broadcast from Michigan. Cautions that changed the complexion of the race fell during commercial breaks and TNT never returned from them to tell the audience what was going on. I know that this doesn’t sound like a big thing, but TNT has prided themselves on doing this in the past, so I believe that it’s fair to call them out on it. Unlike Michigan, however, this occurred three times on Sunday.
In addition, some commenter’s on last week’s critique said that some of the commercial breaks contain local ads as required in the TV deal. TNT cannot break away from those local ads for any reason. The caution for David Stremme’s crash occurred during one of these breaks. In fact, it happened while TNT was showing an ad for Fuccillo Hyundai in Niskayuna, NY. Anyone who lives in Upstate New York has probably seen one of Fuccillo’s ads and probably wants that guy to stop saying “Huge.” This takes TNT off the hook partially for that cavalcade of screw-up’s. However, that does not take TNT off the hook for missing those pit stops.
The NASCAR on TNT Live! Show had a “Pride of NASCAR” interview with Dan Gurney, who was essentially the original Road Course Ringer. This included questions about his victory in the Cannonball in 1971 with Brock Yates. I found it interesting that he actually gave a different reason for doing the race in the interview than he did in Brock Yates’ book, Cannonball, from a couple years ago (it’s a great book, by the way. I recommend it). In the book, Gurney claimed that he initially declined because he thought his sponsors would freak out. Then, he read some piece by Ayn Rand and it gave him the idea that he should do the race as a protest against the “Nanny Culture.”
I’m still not a fan of the start of the race being around 5:20 p.m. EDT, a change that was instituted when TNT took over broadcasting the race in 2007. This is not just because it makes writing articles about this race a living nightmare for those of us on deadline (like myself on Sunday), but that it adversely affects the race for the drivers and some of the fans. At Infineon Raceway, this would adversely affect fans sitting in the Esses and Turn 7. The drivers would be driving into the sun while going up the hill. The race starts at 2:25 p.m. local time and ends after 5 p.m. The result of this is the sun playing far too much of a role during a race held on the longest day of the year.
Also, the long form name of those infamous double-file restarts is really annoying. I’m not the only person who believes this. Matt McLaughlin, in his column on Monday, mentioned this as well. Even Wally Dallenbach, Jr. and Kyle Petty are sick of the whole “Shootout-style” addendum to the end of the double-file restarts. While it is true that this style of restart has been used for years in the Budweiser Shootout (formerly Bud Shootout, and before that, the Busch Clash) at Daytona, this form of restart only gained significant momentum in NASCAR inner circles after this year’s Sprint All-Star Race, where it has also been used for years.
It’s pretty obvious by now that the “Shootout-style” thing is played out, and makes the introduction to the restarts unnecessarily long, and stilted. It’s just as annoying as the commentators coming together to say the “Mmmm…Good” slogan for Quizno’s Subs when SPEED comes back from commercial (and believe me, that is annoying and I wish that they would stop that). Just call them double-file restarts for the time being, and then just call them restarts from that point on.
To add to that, I knew that the Lucky Dog had been extended to the end of the race as a side effect (basically) of the double-file restarts being instituted, but this also sees the end of all single-file restarts in the Cup Series, even those within 20 laps of the finish. The 20 lap rule, which was just instituted earlier this season, is apparently no more after just a few weeks. This was not an issue at Pocono or Michigan because neither race had restarts in the final 20 laps, but I don’t remember this ever being made clear.
A place where TNT could have used a different view was when they showed the replay of Patrick Carpentier’s spin in Turn 11. TNT decided to show the replay from a bumper cam on the front of Clint Bowyer’s No. 33. You really couldn’t make out much from this, if anything. TNT has the same virtual software available to them that FOX has. That would have been a great time to break it out.
TNT just seemed to be slow in general on replays on Sunday. Maybe they’re still a little gun shy from their botched replay early in this race in 2007, when they accidentally aired an audible F-Bomb from Kyle Petty’s radio, I don’t know. Maybe the on track action was too fast and furious. TNT actually showed a series of replays a couple of times in order to show a couple of series of incidents. Perhaps TNT should consider using the replay split screen that SPEED has used for their Camping World Truck Series broadcasts this year.
Also, for the second time in three races, TNT failed to show a replay of a late race crash. The crash I’m referring to was a stack up coming to the white flag that involved Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Robby Gordon. I have no clue how this happened, to be honest. All I know is that they were involved, and they all pulled away from the scene, ensuring that the race would not end under caution. The three drivers finished 34th to 36th in the final running order as a direct result of the incident. Burton’s finish caused him to drop out of the top 12 in points. It would have been nice to see a replay of this, maybe even after the checkered flag flew, but TNT was busy with other things.
This race was also the first race in TNT’s Summer Series to run longer than expected, so the length of the post-race show was explainable. The timeslot for Sunday’s race only ran to 8:30pm EDT (5:30 p.m. PDT). It took longer than that to finish the race. Knowing that, any post-race coverage that we could have gotten on TNT would essentially be gravy. We ended up getting checks on the unofficial results and points standings, which is typical. We also got interviews with the top four finishers (Kahne, Stewart, Ambrose, Johnson), and Kurt Busch, who finished 15th, but was taken out on lap 90 by Johnson. TNT also documented how Busch and Johnson worked out their issue right there on the air. Bill Weber promised additional post-race coverage on RaceBuddy after TNT left the air at approximately 8:45 to get to “The Da Vinci Code” (if you live in the Eastern U.S., like me). West Coast viewers got “The Pursuit of Happyness,” I guess. RaceBuddy’s post-race coverage included a recap of the entire race with Marc Fein and Larry McReynolds, and six more interviews (with Montoya, Allmendinger, Logano, Hamlin, Carpentier and Bowyer.
Now, what grade would I give TNT’s broadcast for this week? It was definitely not good enough for an A. I graded the race itself as a B+, just missing an A-. I’ll give the coverage a B-. I’ve already voiced some of my issues above. However, TNT did show quite a bit of racing for position and gave an impartial broadcast from Sonoma. I will admit that they failed to notice some incidents right away, like Brandon Ash’s wreck in the Esses. I think Kyle Petty did notice this crash, but the others just continued on like nothing had happened. It could be argued that this was because of the near constant action on Sunday, but that still doesn’t make excusable.
After seeing Sunday’s race, I cannot wait for Watkins Glen in August. I presently do not know whether I’ll be watching the races from there on my TV here, or if I’ll be at the track, but I’ll definitely enjoy myself either way.
That is all for this week. Next week is yet another split weekend for NASCAR’s top three series. The Truck Series races Saturday night at Memphis Motorsports Park in a standalone race, the MemphisTravel.com 200 Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts. This race will air on Saturday at 6 p.m. on SPEED. The Nationwide and Cup Series are both racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. The Nationwide Series’ Camping World RV Sales 200 Presented by Turtle Wax will air on ABC at 3 p.m. Saturday, while the Sprint Cup Series’ Lenox Industrial Tools 301 will air on TNT on Sunday at 2 p.m. (after the customary 90 minutes of pre-race). I will provide critiques of each of these three races in next week’s piece. In addition, if anything else piques my interest, I’ll be sure to make some reference to it here.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. And if you would like to contact TNT, ESPN, or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please click on the following links:
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions in a courteous manner than emails full of rants and vitriol.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
How about we just call them “restarts”. Those of us who follow NASCAR know about the change to double file and most people who dont usually got confused by the old single file. Ive explained NASCAR’s logic (illogic?) of wanting the lapped cars in their own line to a dozen people over the years while watching a race on tv. Never made sense to them..nor to me.
TNT did have a few problems this week , and i have to think that Sundays’ reflected how much action was going on around the track at times . It was pretty wild at times , hard to cover everything as big as that place is . Still , much , much better than anything FOX ever did . By the way , notice that there is no flood of complaints every Monday about TNT like there always are about FOX ? Nascar should pay attention to that when tv contracts come up for renewal .
ESPN was a disaster for me all weekend. Maybe it was just a problem with my satellite provider but I don’t think so. The sound mixing on the ESPN broadcasts for both the Nationwide & Indycar races was absolutely horrible. The sounds from the track (mostly engine noise) was much louder than the guys in the booth with the Nationwide being the better of the 2 races. I could at least understand what Punch, Wallace, & Evernham were saying, the Indycar race I couldn’t and had to turn the IMS radio on.
At one point I was thinking I had a problem with either my television or satellite receiver but it couldn’t be. I had no sound issues what so ever with the broadcasts of Trucks, Cup, Grand-Am, or F1.
It is weird watching the race because of all the things we have been used to, scrolls of where people are, what lap we are on, etc, are not done at all. In fact, it seems that the commentators are watching the race on a TV screen like we are.
Any chance you will get to DVR it and give us a review.